Gender & Design – Some Hypotheses
The world is designed. We have design and need design.
Preferably we would need intelligent design but this is not a matter of course.
The reasons are manifold.
One reason cross-cutting all others is rooted in the gender relations in design.
All of us are, always and everywhere in the world, gendered beings and we often, subconsciously, think and act as such. Cultural experiences and societal processes are inevitably defined by ‘gender’.
Gender positions humans within the social space. Gender takes on the status of an “attendant”.
Social constructions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘feminity’ force us to behave and act, more or less, according to these preconditions.
Gender attribution derives from two enforced responsibilities. On the one hand, there is gender representation where each individual has to perform their gender using a socially accepted (design) repertoire such as dress, gestures, voice, names and designations and specific activities. On the other hand, there is gender attribution which derives from gender representation because for ‘doing gender’ there has to be a sexualization process of people, objects, names etc. And this process is not only valid for the interaction between people but also for the interaction between people and objects.
We need both an intensive, networked debate on and precise knowledge of the historical, cultural and situational conditionality and contextualization of gender relations in design, which become evident with regard to interdependencies with other categories such as ethnicity, social class, sexuality and age.
What is true for most of us, is also true for designers, both male and female: we cannot simply ‘shed our skin’: studies have shown that also design professionals, deliberately or unintentionally, transport their ‘gender’ in their design. Not only do we have to be aware of this social genderization in design, we also have to comment on it in a critical, open and public way, and in so doing we have to strive for change towards accepting and supporting diversity, towards a gender-sensitive and gender-appropriate design in both theory and practice.